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How Does Alzheimer’s Disease Affect Intelligence?

The degree to which Alzheimer’s disease can affect someone’s intelligence varies from person to person.

People in the early onset stage can easily perform day to day tasks. They might also go to work regularly. But the road becomes a lot tougher for those who are in later stages of the disease.
Going to work becomes nearly impossible in this stage and the patients lose their ability to add financial value to their families.

But how exactly does Alzheimer’s disease affect intelligence?

By isolating the neurons, it stops them from passing on the information necessary for normal brain function.

Let’s have a look at a few factors affecting brain cells of an Alzheimer’s disease patient.

Plaques and Tangles

Dr. Alois Alzheimer, the man who first discovered this type of dementia, found two abnormal substances in the brain of one of his patients.
Based on how their appearance, he identified them as plaques and tangles.[1]

Plaques are smoky, a cellular substance that builds up around and outside neurons. Tangles are springy, noodle-like insoluble fibers that develop inside nerve cells.

Plaques and tangles are present in every healthy individual’s brain but are in a considerably less quantity than that of someone who is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease.

In a healthy person’s brain, the amyloid precursor protein( a protein present in many tissues and concentrated in the synapses of neurons in a human brain) is further converted to three protein fragments known as alpha amyloid, beta-amyloid and gamma amyloid all three in equal amounts— But in a person with Alzheimer’s, beta-amyloid is produced in far more quantity compared to the other two.

The excess beta-amyloid gets accumulated inside the brain and was termed as “plaque” by Dr. Alzheimer.

How do plaques affect brain functioning?

Plaques choke up the gap between two nerve cells(synapse). Through this gap, two neurons communicate with each other by passing electrical signals.

Neurons get isolated and their ability to function as a group and pass information gets affected, hence the brain does not function properly.

As the person showing symptoms get older, more plaques are formed and his/her condition gets worse and worse.

Due to a chemical imbalance in tau protein (proteins that stabilize microtubules in the brain), they get entangled with other tau protein molecules and form “tangles”.

These tangles destroy microtubules and prevent necessary nutrients from reaching nerve endings of neurons, thus causing the entire cell to become dysfunctional.

This causes memory loss which can affect the Alzheimer’s disease patient’s ability to perform tasks needing intelligence like forming a sentence, reading a newspaper, typing an email on the computer, etc.

How to know when Alzheimer’s disease has started to affect your loved one’s intelligence?

Alzheimer’s disease attacks the brain by causing harm to the individual’s memory. It robs the brain’s ability to apply itself.[2]

At this stage, the individual suffering from Alzheimer’s stops recognizing his/her, family members and distant relatives.

The ability to handle our personal finances makes us independent and reliable— Alzheimer’s patients in later stages have to fully depend on their family members to handle their finances, pay medical bills and do any kind of financial transaction— early-onset individuals under proper medical treatment can perform such tasks well.

Failure to do day to day tasks

The first thing a normal person does after waking up in the morning is head to the washroom and wash his/her face or perform other routine activities.

But an AD patient feels directionless and purposeless in the morning and has a torrid time getting through the day.

An Alzheimer’s patient in later stages doesn’t even remember what a toothbrush is used for, let alone other things like taking a shower, do your hair, etc.

It can be really frustrating for a family member to watch their loved one being physically fit and strong, but not being able to apply their minds.

Isolations and need for solitude

Constantly getting nagged by their family members for being slow can make an Alzheimer’s patient feel unwanted.

Its very natural for them to make themselves distant from society, it gives them space to breathe and reflect on what can be done to deal with this situation.

Getting fired from work

getting fired from work alzheimers disease

Most people who are diagnosed with early-onset AD hide this fact from their employer and continue to work to make enough money to pay their medical bills and personal expenses.
The decline in performance and asocial behavior affects their professional lives and eventually gets them fired.

People with businesses make wrong decisions due to lack of judgment, ability to be logical, etc, this makes their clients think twice and explore other options.

Not able to maintain relationships

Every healthy relationship, whether it’s business, familial, romantic, or something else needs both the individuals to equally commit to each other and constantly add fuel to maintain it.

It becomes difficult to keep going on with the relationship for a healthy person if another partner is constantly being forgetful, unreliable and can’t keep promises.

Not able to drive

Driving a vehicle is a major city needs you to have sound judgment and accurate knowledge of traffic rules.

Although there are no laws prohibiting an Alzheimer’s patient from driving, at some point, it becomes difficult to stay focused and perform various tasks needed while driving efficiently.

Hiring a dedicated driver makes the AD patient dependent on him and requires the driver to be careful and understand the AD patient’s needs and limitations, while on the road.

Conclusion :

Plaques and tangles are two measuring factors of how much Alzheimer’s disease can affect one’s intelligence.

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